Buffalo managed just one win in five tries against Eastern Conference champion Ottawa last season, but this one already has promised change for the Sabres.
After beginning the year 1-3-0, Buffalo has won four of its last five, but its first meeting this season with the high-scoring Senators could serve as an early barometer for the Sabres.
Ottawa is averaging a league-leading 3.75 goals, and it has just two losses in regulation—including 3-2 Thursday night to visiting Florida, which snapped the Senators’ team’s four-game winning streak.
The loss came after a four-day layoff in their schedule.
“You try to avoid it, you talk about avoiding it - having those days off and coming out flat,” Ottawa defenseman Chris Phillips said. “It’s happened to a lot of teams and it’s something we definitely didn’t want to do. Unfortunately it wasn’t our best effort and we came out short.”
Marian Hossa and Vaclav Varada each scored while Lalime allowed three goals on 22 shots in suffering his first regulation loss for the Senators, who also lead the league with a 28.9 percent power-play percentage.
Despite the defeat, Lalime is 5-2-0 with a 1.71 goals-against average, and Hossa and left wing Radek Bonk both rank among the league’s scoring leaders.
Buffalo, meanwhile, is coming off a 5-3 win over Toronto in which captain Miroslav Satan scored his 200th goal with the Sabres. The accomplishment was almost marred when the 29-year-old right wing was called for a double penalty late in the game. It forced the team to play the final 3:11 short-handed with just a one-goal lead.
“I didn’t like the original penalty call but we killed it off,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “But I like seeing Satan show a lot of emotion on the play and I told him that.”
After managing a league-low nine road wins last season, the Sabres have won three straight away from home and four overall.
STANDINGS (through Oct. 30): Sabres - 12 points, 2nd place (tied), 3 PB, Northeast Division. Senators - 11 points, 4th place (tied), 4 PB, Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Sabres - Taylor Pyatt, 6 goals; Chris Drury and J.P. Dumont, 7 assists; Drury, 10 points; Andrew Peters, 51 PIM. Senators - Marian Hossa and Daniel Alfredsson, 5 goals; Hossa and Radek Bonk, 7 assists; Hossa, 12 points; Chris Neil, 23 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Oct. 30): Sabres - Power play: 18.8 percent (10 for 53), 9th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.5 percent (12 for 65), 22nd. Senators - Power play: 28.9 percent (11 for 38), 1st. Penalty killing: 78.0 percent (11 for 50), 27th.
SEASON SERIES: Senators, 4-1-0.
LAST MEETING: January 25; 4-3. At Ottawa, Alfredsson stopped Biron’s shutout streak at 221 minutes, 58 seconds when he scored a power-play goal in the second period.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sabres - 4-3-0-0 on the road; Senators - 2-1-0-1 at home.